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The Renaissance - ENG00107I

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Gasper Jakovac
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

This module extends from Spenser and Shakespeare through to Milton and covers a period of intense, inventive and accomplished English literary production. It deals with a century divided by a tumultuous civil war – England’s only revolution – out of which emerges the most majestic poem in the language, Paradise Lost. The module gives you a broad overview of the period, and you will encounter the intense self-consciousness of an era that felt itself to be newly discovering the classical past; an era that was violent, brilliant, excessive and raucous; that was politically turbulent and experimental in literary form and that saw the emergence of women into the public sphere, as poets, polemicists, political and professional writers. You will study, typically, themes including: love and sex in the Renaissance, from Spenser’s fighting woman warrior, Britomart, to Donne’s sublime and sclerotic poetry of lust; madness and kingship on the Jacobean stage, looking for example at Shakespeare’s Macbeth, with its dark vision of unhinged and paranoid power-lust, or the blood-fest and revenge fury of The Duchess of Malfi. The era’s writings on religion and revolution contains some of the most tormented and beautiful poetry and we will look at writers such as Amelia Lanyer, Katherine Philips, John Donne and George Herbert to represent this, alongside a rich selection of civil war and post-civil war writings, including Andrew Marvell’s lyrics, the Republican Lucy Hutchinson, and the stirring democratic pamphlets of the Levellers. The course culminates with Milton’s Paradise Lost, an epic that enfolds the experience of defeat and the destruction of the brief English Republic together with the Fall and Milton’s defiant and uncompromising rebel, Satan, who undoes the world. English and world literature has remained for centuries in awe of Shakespeare and Milton, as the troubling, complex root of western thought. This course lets you see why and puts them in the company of a dazzling array of contemporaries.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2021-22

Module aims

The aim of this module is to allow you to develop a detailed understanding and appreciation of seventeenth-century literature, in its fullest cultural context.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an informed understanding of and engagement with a range of literature and genres from the period.

  2. Demonstrate an informed understanding of and engagement with some of the main social, religious, political and cultural contexts.

  3. Examine key debates and critical contexts related to the period.

  4. Develop oral and written arguments which demonstrate a proficiency in critical thinking and research skills.


Task Length % of module mark
2500 word essay
N/A 70
Recorded Presentation
N/A 30

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
2500 word essay
N/A 70
Recorded Presentation
N/A 30

Module feedback

  • You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours
  • For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see the department's Guide to Assessment

Indicative reading

Key texts from this module may include:

  • Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene,
  • John Donne, Songs and Sonnets, manuscript poems
  • William Shakespeare, Macbeth, King Lear
  • John Webster, Duchess of Malfi,
  • John Ford, Tis Pity she's a Whore
  • John Milton, Paradise Lost
  • Andrew Marvell, Poems
  • Margaret Cavendish, The Blazing World

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.